There is no doubt that Ilocos is one of the most beautiful provinces in the country. With its gorgeous natural landscapes and historical destinations, it is no wonder why travelers are captivated by its beauty. Mark and I were given the chance to explore the province, both Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, thanks to an opportunity to cover for a site that we contribute for. It was one of our first assignments together for an out of town trip, and needless to say, it was equal parts wonderful and a little bit hectic (as most press trips are). Although the trip was technically a ‘tour’ with paying passengers and all, the itinerary mostly followed the ‘shotgun’ method — meaning to say, we tried to cover as many destinations as we can in the limited time that we have. This is an interesting way to explore a province, but it definitely has its ups and downs. I’ll explain it later, but to give you more idea on how we went around and what we did, here’s the itinerary of our trip.
Geography Time: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte
A definitive map of Region 1
Okay, before we start, I’ll give you first an idea on the geography of the area. Many people don’t really know that Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are two different provinces, located about a hundred or so kilometers away from each other. While many people are familiar with the top spots to visit in the province, some may be also unaware that it may take them two or three hours just to go from one place to another.
View from the top of Laoag Sand Dunes
To give you an overview, the northern part (Ilocos Norte) is mostly the place for all things adventurous. From Laoag Sand Dunes to Pagudpud Beach and the Anuplig Falls, Ilocos Norte is a haven for those who are looking for all things outdoors.
A peek at Calle Crisologo, Vigan
Ilocos Sur, on the other hand, is the more laidback and historical side of the province. Home to Calle Crisologo, Malacanang of the North, and Bantay Bell Tower, most of the activities that you can do at Ilocos Sur is really more of sightseeing and tons and tons of (not-so) mini photo shoots.
Ilocos 3D2N: Destinations
Pusuquin Salt Factory (Pusuquin, Ilocos Norte)
A small town in Ilocos Norte, Pusuquin is known for their delicious biscocho and their salt making factories. For our first stop, we were ushered inside the factory and was shown how salt is harvested from its bed. We were also given the chance to harvest the salt ourselves (note: it was a whole lot of challenge) and take tons of photographs. We didn’t stay long as the factory was extremely hot, but it was surely an interesting pit stop.
Things to do: Taste the freshly harvested salt (it tastes a bit different!) and give salt harvesting a try
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos, Ilocos Norte)
Standing for more than a hundred years, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is one of the most visited destinations in Ilocos because of its amazing facade and its Instagrammable views. Check out my full post about our experience here: Cape Bojeador Lighthouse: A Quick Glimpse from the Past
Things to do: Eat ice scramble and take photos on top of the lighthouse
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation (Burgos, Ilocos Norte)
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation attracts many travelers because of its pearly white formations, created by the sea for thousands of years. Located just beside the West Philippine Sea, the formations are a great place to take photos and the sight is something truly worth marveling. Read my full post about our visit here: Kapurpurawan Rock Formation: White Washed by Nature
Things to do: Hike to the rock formation, take photos with Lam-Ang, ride a horse and roam around the area
Patapat Viaduct (Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte)
An elevated bridge that connects Ilocos to Cagayan, Patapat Viaduct is one of the most scenic stopovers during our trip. Many tourists would park their vans and motorbikes to take photos in the middle of the road. It was a struggle, but many are willing to take the risk just to have that perfect Instagram post, I suppose. 🙂
Things to do: Take photos, Patintero with cars to take that perfect shot
Pagudpud White Beach (Ilocos Norte)
Known for its fine white sand, Pagudpud is the go-to beach in Ilocos Norte. You can visit the White Beach if you feel like swimming and rolling around the sand, while Blue Lagoon is perfect for those who are more adventurous and would like to try their hand at surfing.
Things to do: Eat by the beach (their seafood dishes are the bomb) swim, surf, and beach bum
Bangui Windmills (Burgos, Ilocos Norte)
Witness the majestic beauty of the Bangui Windmills with the sunset in the backdrop! Situated by the beach, Bangui Windmills is a romantic and magical place that’s perfect to end the day. Read more of my experience here: Bangui Windmills: The Magic of Sunsets
Things to do: Watch the sunset, sit down by the rocky shore, and be all cheesy and mushy with your significant other (if applicable)
Bantay Bell Tower (Bantay, Ilocos Sur)
Our 2nd day was dedicated to sightseeing different destinations in Ilocos Sur. Our first stop: the centuries-old Bantay Bell Tower. This belfry served as a watchtower for pirates during the Spanish Colonial Era. This is one of the oldest churches in the region and holds a whole lot of history.
Things to do: Photo shoots, but of course.
Pagburnayan (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
Home to classic pottery items and cute displays, Pagburnayan is one of the most famous stops in Vigan. One of their staff showed a demo on how the pots were created. Due to time constraints, only one of us were able to try the pottery session, while the rest of us were busy taking photographs (but of course) and rummaging through their items.
Things to do: Shop for clay items (make sure to look for their cute ashtray if you’re a smoker), Try creating your own clay pot
Baluarte ni Singson (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
Might be the only place that I didn’t like from our tour, Baluarte ni Singson is the province’s governor’s very own “fortress”. It’s a zoo that houses tigers, birds, snakes, and the like, and I really didn’t feel like they were well taken care of. We saw the tigers being held inside a cage so small, it’s no longer healthy for them.
Honestly, I don’t suggest supporting this kind of business. Sure, you want to see animals, but they are obviously in pain and they don’t need to go through all these suffering just for you to be entertained.
Calle Crisologo (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)
Calle Crisologo was obviously the most famous of all our stops in Vigan. We felt like we were transported back in time with its cobbled walkways and gorgeous structures. We weren’t able to make the most out of stay as we dropped by on a noon and we’d have to run someplace else to catch on our itinerary. Read more about my experience here: Calle Crisologo
To do: Shop for pasalubongs (Bagnet!!!), Try the Dragonfruit Ice Cream, Take sh*t loads of photos as this place is gorgeous AF
Paoay Church (Paoay, Ilocos Sur)
Completed in the 1700s, Paoay Church is one of the oldest churches in the country. Following a baroque style and created with coral stones and bricks, its beauty is truly stunning. The church has been declared as a UNESCO heritage site in 1993.
Things to do: Photo shoot by the garden, Offer a little prayer
Laoag Sand Dunes (Laoag, Ilocos Norte)
Our last stop before heading home was a half day experience in Laoag Sand Dunes. With its huge slopes and a promise of a thrilling ride behind a ginormous 4×4, I would have to say that this is my favorite activity during the tour. Read my experience on the dunes here: Laoag Sand Dunes: Adventure Time in the North
Things to do: Ride the 4×4, Try Sandboarding, Rent an ATV to go around the dunes
Transportation and Transfers in Ilocos
Going to Laoag, our tour company arranged some seats for us at Maria De Leon (located near UST). The bus was spacious and had reclining chairs which made the 12-hour ride comfortable. Once we arrived in Laoag, we were ushered by our tour company to a van, which pretty much did everything for us.
If you are doing it DIY style, there are tons of available public transports in the area. There are vans, buses, and tricycles that are readily available in most tourist destinations. However, if you want to cover as many areas as you can in a short amount of time (just like what we did), I highly suggest that you rent a van prior your trip. You can follow through with the route that we’ve taken, and just rent a van once you’re in Laoag to lessen the expenses.
DIY tours in Ilocos are plausible, but you may have to reconsider the duration of your stay since the destinations are a bit far from one another.
The Pros and Cons of our 3days/2nights Itinerary
- Being able to see SO MANY destinations in just a short span of time
- Ilocos is a beautiful province and every stop is nothing but amazing
- It was tiring AF, especially because we were following such a tight schedule
- We weren’t able to explore much of the other places (like Calle Crisologo) due to the itinerary
This 3D2N itinerary is definitely NOT for everyone. In the recent months that I’ve been constantly traveling, I realized that my style is more laid back, and the backpacker’s shotgun method is not for me. Although I am extremely grateful and happy to witness the beauty of Ilocos, I can’t help myself but ask for more time to each destination, just so I can savor each moment better.
The 3D2N itinerary would best fit those people who are interested in seeing all the top destinations in such a short amount of time (a.k.a. not the tita crowd). If you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of sleep and rest as well as spend just a couple of minutes on each area, then this kind of trip is for you. It’s perfect because all the must see areas are included, plus it lets you tick off your bucket list as rapidly as possible.
This trip is truly one for the books, although it did not fit my traveling style. I surely am excited to go back to Ilocos someday and reexperience everything, but maybe just a tiny bit slower than that of my first tour.
How about you? Have you been to Ilocos? How was your experience? Share it in the comment section below. I would love to know!